Mostly Pop July 2014

In which, during the course of his continued pop reviewing career, Mr Moth discovers there are worse things he can encounter than One Direction or The Wanted.


Ariana Grande ft Iggy Azalea – Problem

Simply put, what a fucking tune. More complexly (yeah, that’s totally a word, the spellcheck didn’t wiggly line it or anything), this does things I wasn’t quite expecting. The verse, alternately belted out and cooed, moved to a rattling build up to what was probably going to be a fairly ordinary chorus, you know? I couldn’t tell you what, I’m not a musician, but the sudden drop into parping sax and a whispered refrain completely wrong-footed me. The meticulously minimal production around that build-and-drop is so perfectly created, I’m torn between cynical admiration and wide-eyed pop joy.

Lyrically, it shares a sort of psychic space with Jason DeRulo’s splendid breakup anthem of a few years ago, Riding Solo – “got no weight on my shoulders” – and riffs on the long-standing joke of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems. Good to know people are keeping up with perennial Twitter memes. They should’ve chucked something in about milkshake.

Video’s terrible, don’t bother with the video. A mash of the usual cod-60s clichés, go-go boots and monochrome swirls, with bang up to date clichés of blink-blink looks to camera and bling-bling cutaways. Waste of time, and devalues the song somewhat. But you know all this, because it’s been number one already (and notably so, being the first to have got there on a chart that includes streaming plays). Schedules, eh?

La Roux – Uptight Downtown

I admit, I sort of wasn’t expecting La Roux back. I’d mentally consigned her to history, with some sadness because did you hear the singles from the first album? And when the return came, I was wary because no-one likes change and losing a whole person from a duo is a lot of change. BUT this is pretty fantastic. With sparks of Abba and Bowie, Uptight Downtown is a song that has soaked in the sun and is now sitting in a club coated in a sheen of aftersun, sweat and seasalt. Lush and slightly arch retro electropop? I expect it’ll fail to make the impact it should and end up used as Match of the Day montage bedding. Maybe time will be kind.

“But… this isn’t even a video, Moth!” I hear you cry. Yeah, I’m listening to you cry. Your tears are wasted on me, though, because sometimes you have to look past the fact that an act can’t be arsed to make a video and review the song because it’s great. So we work with what we have, let’s imagine a video, eh?

Lily Allen – URL Badman

It’s sort of a joke song. It’s got a goat bleating as part of the dubstep* backing, it uses the phrase “play with my willy”, it’s got a skit bit to start it off, it throws out pop culture references that will be dated before you read the end of this sentence. When I heard it on the album I smiled and thought “That’s the sort of song you’d never hear if you didn’t buy the album, one for the fans”, but hey check it out, this is a single! A bloody single! The very definition of “album track” and here it is going for Top 40 immortality!

So how do we assess something that shouldn’t even be here? I guess we could look at the video, which is based around a single visual trick. It’s a very good visual trick, but the song is just a smidge too long to sustain it. I’m not saying I was bored, exactly – the effect is pretty enough to simply stare at for a while – just that I would have liked maybe something else to happen.  Never happy, am I? Someone comes along with a serviceable song that I genuinely like, a bit, and an attractively put-together video and all I can do is complain. JUST DO BETTER, POP STARS! I WANT TO LIKE YOU!

*yeah, look at me throwing dubstep around now as if I know what it is BUT THIS IS THE MUSIC THE DUBSTEP GUN FROM SAINTS ROW PLAYED so it must be.

Childish Gambino – Sweatpants

I know nothing but the name Childish Gambino, but I like his style on this. Not unrelated to the swirly chaotic rap of Azealia Banks, but with less of the scattergun anger, and the menace sublimated. I don’t have a lot of up to date hip-hop reference points. You’re going to have to help me out here. Say things like Tyler the Creator and Kendrick Lamar to me, Idk. Nothing makes me feel more like someone’s Dad than saying “I, er, I like the rapping on this one”, despite having been brought up in the bleedin’ golden age of hip hop. Actually, believing there was a golden age of hip hop makes it worse.

Video is straightforwardly, unembarrasedly, great, though. A gimmicky one, for sure, but I prefer a gimmick to the straight “Hey, ain’t we hot?” tedium of so many videos. The song could have been slightly longer, just to let the layers of Malkovitch oddness build a little more satisfyingly, though this is a minor quibble. It’s one of those vids that get in your head and improve the song by association, sort of the opposite of the Grande clip. Still, hey, loads of solid thumbs-up for the songs reviewed here!  What a great month so far!! Surely the next one will also be great???

Magic! –Rude

Wow. Wo-o-ow. Wow. This is, well… this is so, so… I’m not sure I can form the words here. This is fucking appalling. That’s a start. This is so so so bad. No, that’s not enough to carry on with. Here, play this and we’ll go through the healing process together. Be warned, this contains a difficult-to-process amount of cod reggae skanking in a style very, very similar to the Police.

Jesus. Amirite? First of all, look at that fucker. Take a goooood long look at him. Look at his fucking mug, and see the massive arrogance he wears on it. Sir, I put it to you that you look like a sad horse dressed in a Michael Hutchence costume and you should adopt, perhaps, a slightly less conceited disposition. This carries through to the lyrics, which are unbelievably horrible. Oh, surely not, Moth! Surely they’re just the usual bad pop lyrics? Nuh-uh.

Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life?
Say yes, say yes ’cause I need to know
You say I’ll never get your blessing till the day I die
Tough luck, my friend, but the answer is ‘No’

Actual lyrics. Actual lyrics from a song in 2014. We could break them down, revelling in the terrible, but who has time for that? Well, now you mention it, I’ve no pressing engagements. So there’s “Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life?” Really? You’re going there? Woman as property. Huh. I honestly can’t say I expected to see that said in a sincere manner in a song at this late point in our civilisation. Sincere, even romantic. A romantic transfer of chattel. Then it gets a little more confusing – “You say I’ll never get your blessing till the day I die”. Now, there are probably implied quotation marks in there, but even so it doesn’t actually work as a sequence of words. Who is the you and who is the I? “Till the day I die”, in that sentence, implies that once the leader singer of Magic! is dead he can have his girlfriend’s father’s permission to marry her. Can that be right? It’s an odd way to phrase it. No one wants their daughter shacking up with a zombie. Then we come to the chorus.

Why you gotta be so rude?
Don’t you know I’m human too?
Why you gotta be so rude?
I’m gonna marry her anyway

My, my. “Why you gotta be so rude?” Dude, srsly, you asked if you could take possession of his daughter. I’d be pretty nonplussed at this point, too. I’d assume the whole thing was a joke, like I’m going to let my daughter marry this ass. “Don’t you know I’m human too?” would be my cue to laugh, because no you’re clearly as I said before some sort of cruel farmyard prank. Then he drops the bomb – “I’m gonna marry her anyway.” Well, then why did you fucking ASK in the first place, you prick? What’s the point of this conversation if you’re going to ignore the answer? If you’re serious, don’t ignore the answer, no matter that it isn’t the 18th century. If it’s just a formality, why would you be so offended by the no? And it’s going to have been clear for a while if her father hates you – first and foremost because, and there’s no kind way to phrase this, you are you. Surely everyone responds to you negatively. Do you sing this song at everyone? Do you whine your way through life “Why you gotta be so rude?” I’ll tell you why. Because you fucking deserve it. I mean, look where you go next.

I’m gonna marry that girl

That girl. “That girl”. Like he’s just pointing to someone in a crowd, no identification beyond “owns a vagina”. You know, in another song it might not matter, you’d let it slide because it’s lyrics and sometimes you just have to fit the words in. I think I can safely say that this is not going to happen here. That girl.

You know she’s in love with me
She will go anywhere I go

Woah, really? Like a devoted doggy trailing after her master, she’ll abandon her actual parents in favour of you? I’m not as certain as you are that she really loves you that much. For a start, apart from right here, you conspicuously fail to talk about how she feels about all this. Have you even asked her about this marriage? This is a discussion between you and her father – an interested party attempting to make a deal with the owner of some goods. It’s entirely possible, don’t you think, that his “no” is provoked simply because you have asked in this manner in the first place. I’m almost 100% certain that this man loves his daughter a great deal more than you do, you charmless little shit, and since you’ve given him the opportunity to intervene in a relationship he probably sees as horrifically one-sided how can you possibly be surprised by this relatively polite declining of your offer? Now pack up your shitty garage band, take your hideous beanie hat off, apologise to everyone and fuck off back to Canada.

Sorry if any of that came off rude.

Charli XCX – Boom Clap

Charli XCX is rapidly becoming one of my favourite pop stars, though I’d struggle to pick her out of a crowd. Her singles with Icona Pop and Iggy Azalea, the amazing SuperLove, and now this – it dials the speed down a little from the agitated SuperLove to more of an anthemic kinda pace, without going full boyband. Look, I’m sorry, I’m a bit knackered after that Magic! review . I love this, please listen to it and buy it and make it a massive hit, apologies for the rather insipid film tie-in video. Bye!

About Thom Willis

Thom is the curator of #microwrites - - and writes his own stories for He lives in London because, given the choice, who wouldn't?

9 thoughts on “Mostly Pop July 2014

  1. Ariana did “Problem” on her MTV special in a “just herself and a piano player” version. It works incredibly well – no parping sax, no grating rap break – just the girl solo. Bin the collabs (Nicki Minaj AND Jessie J? Why?) and just sing, Miss Grande-Butera.

  2. Not with you on Boom Clap. But just added Childish Gambino album to my Amazon cart. Feel free to claim your commission.
    And good good lord but that Magic song is bad. I mean I know you said it was bad, nay awful, but with some hindsight I feel you understated it.

    1. Ok, ok, but try Superlove – listen to it a couple of times. It’s one of my favourite pop songs in a long time.

      I have to say that I think it may be scientifically impossible to overstate the badness of Rude. I think science might be bested there.

      1. Out of respect for your pop loving prowess I will. But I think this is one we won’t agree on.
        Loving the new La Roux too. Was not expecting such a strong return and was surprised by how pleased I was. One of those acts I like far more than I remember liking.

      2. Prowess! But anyway, yes if Superlove doesn’t convince you, nothing will.

        My most consistent feedback on this post is – everyone loves the new La Roux. The album is great.

  3. Superlove not as objectionable as Boom Clap, but is precisely the kind of pop track that converts my “I don’t give a Shit what I look like I have to dance to this!”, to – “F no. Time to get a drink. Try harder Mr DJ”
    …yea, I said Mr DJ. Just me and Madge.

      1. You are missing out. Great pop is all about the unabashed need to dance. Even if you look like you’ve electric eels strapped to your nether regions and feet nailed to the floor – heck it’s so great you don’t care!
        (OK not always. But often. Observe dance floor and Shakira classics..)

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